Are PEDs a part of junior tennis?

“There will be doping for as long as there is commercial sports, performance-related shoe contracts and television contracts.” – Angel Heredia (boxing nutrition consultant)

“I’ve created 20 different drugs that are still undetectable for the doping testers.” — Angel Heredia

With all the money that is in pro sports and pro tennis, performance-enhancing drug use, steroids, human growth hormones, are widely suspected to be used by a few, or possibly many athletes, despite strict testing procedures.

But does the cycle of alleged PED use start even earlier? Are parents of junior players making the decision to invest in PEDs to help their kids make it? To assist their chances to earn the big prize money, endorsement contracts, etc? The high cost of first rate tennis coaching and travel expenses can be devastating on a household’s bank accounts.

Richard Williams, father of Venus and Serena flat out admits he got his daughters into tennis because of seeing Virginia Ruzici win a check for $25,000 for winning a tournament on TV.

Money was the motivating factor for creating two of the greatest champions of the modern era. And perhaps many, many more.

Today there are countless academies in the US and all over the world, varying in size. Some are massive operations, others are small time clubs functioning on your local public park courts. All are trying to produce champion players or at the very least, college scholarship recipients.

Just about every player has a dream to be the best, to win majors, to become a professional player. Or an NCAA Division 1 athlete.

In the roller coaster of life, every edge helps and it’s come to my attention that some of the biggest academies are actually suggesting and recommending parents to get their undersized kids to use PEDs like Human Growth Hormones.

Which is “very dangerous for a fourteen year old” says a small academy owner who reached the ATP top 20 and played in a major final.

“You don’t know what the long term effects will be.”

You see some of these famous players today who are a foot taller than her dad or has legs three times as thick as his dad and it makes you wonder. You see the bad cases of acne, the muscular legs and shoulders, kids well over six feet tall.

Would the dreams of making it in pro tennis, which is about as likely as winning the lottery, induce some or many parents to play the PEDs gambit?

One parent of a player who is no. 1 ranked in her age group in the nation and clearly a clean athlete by the looks of her unmuscular, natural body type, has suspicions about some of her daughter’s rivals, some of whom do not look like typical kids from the neck down. One player has particularly aroused her concerns. “Some of these kids will do ANYTHING for tennis,” she says with a tone of both frustration and respect.

The stories are out there.

Like the Russian girl who went back to Russia after posting mediocre junior results, only to return a couple of years later with a new hair color, birth date and name. That is just one story of many I’ve been told.

Some kids have grown over a foot in a year. But why is there such an emphasis put on height when there are so many players under five-foot-ten that are enjoying super successful careers…Philipp Kohlschreiber, Kei Nishikori, Fabio Fognini, Diego Schwartzman, Yoshihito Nishioka are all well under six feet tall. They didn’t need HGH.

We are going to try to investigate further into this potentially dark corner of the tennis world in the future, so stay tuned…

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  • Andrew Miller · September 16, 2019 at 11:29 pm

    Frightening. Possible – there’s no junior testing. But there’s also no money in juniors. Whatever it is look out for yourselves because those alleyways are dark where this stuff lives.

    I worry about the underbelly of the sport. I’m afraid one day it will rear its head. When a sport claims a Wayne Odesnik, no one cares. They write him off as a bad guy. What happens if the good guys are not as good? What’ll we do then.

    That’s in part why I hope everyone finds a challenger player and cheer them on. Find an obscure player and be a fan. You’ll find an imperfect game and player. But you’ll also find someone that plays for the love of the game and for their lunch money.

  • Jon King · September 17, 2019 at 12:42 am

    Wow, I could write a book on this topic since we have been immersed in juniors for 11 years now. The answer is yes. When we first started the advantage would be for the moneyed player to show up to even low level tournaments with a team. Parents would introduce me to their kid’s hitting coach, the nutrition counselor, the speed coach, etc. Girls in the G-12s had an entourage.

    The Russians are notorious on the junior scene. They have coaches coach in Russian and the refs have no idea what they are saying. They also fake birth certificates. I remember a Little Mo event where a Russian girl played the same age group over and over. I asked the director how she could be the same age as last year and he demanded a birth certificate. Magically they eventually showed one that had her birth date as Jan 2nd and the age cut off was to be born after Jan 1. It is what it is.

    Then the advantages of a team were not enough because with the economic boom many of the players had multiple coaches. So they parents needed to ramp it up.

    Our first experience with PEDs came about 5 years ago. A father with 2 girls who we trained with was very much into the girls being pros. The older girl dropped out and he had 1 girl to focus on. One day he told me his girl had asthma. Interesting, she never mentioned it or showed symptoms. He said he was taking her to a doctor in Ohio who had a special treatment. They went back and forth to Ohio several times. We were at the beach with them one day so had a frame of reference to body type. After they started going to Ohio for the treatment the girl seemed to change overnight. Not only great increase in height but huge weight change. After about 4 months you could see the bones in her forehead and cheeks and chin getting thicker. I owned a health club for 18 years and saw plenty of changes like that in young guys on the juice. The girl also became more outgoing and aggressive overnight.

    Another girl we trained with from age 8 started out as a gymnast. She then switched to all tennis. She was friends with the first girl and also needed treatment for her ‘breathing issues’. We saw her a year ago and she was bigger than either parent, any of her brothers, and her cheek bones look like they should be on a grown mans face. Interesting that she looks nothing like her parents or siblings.

    The stories of who is using and who is not are out there in the tournament gossip. Some are not true, just jealousy of results. But others you can see when most girls you saw grow up mature in height or muscles like normal but some others have huge sudden changes along with their facial features dramatically changing unlike any of the other girls their age or their family members.

    If they tested juniors at big events like the Orange Bowl my hunch is around 10% are juicing.

  • George · September 17, 2019 at 3:09 am

    35 year old journeyman Andreas Seppi beat Mmoh and crushed Noah Rubin in a challenger tournament in Cary:

    Maybe there is a ceiling that Rubin, Young, Paul and Mmoh cannot penetrate? All were unbelievable stars in juniors. It is a sobering reality.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 17, 2019 at 8:57 am

    Andrew, that’s why a Spadea, Santoro, Hsieh, Estrella Burgos, Schnyder, Rochus, Paes, will always have a special place in the heart of fans. No they were never the best but they showed great tennis and they played the sport fair and square.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 17, 2019 at 9:05 am

    Thanks for sharing that info and insight Jon. No doubt there’s a problem. Tennis is ultra competitive on and off court and the more money that is at stake, the more sophisticated cheating will happen. A shocking aspect that has come to my attention lately is the involvement of some major MAJOR names involved and even approving what is happening. There are no whistleblowers, nobody to take a stand. Do you think the Sports Illustrated will pursue a story on which players are requesting and getting therapeutic use exemptions? Stay tuned…

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 17, 2019 at 9:08 am

    35 is the new 28 George, these guys want to stay on the tour as long as they can. Former players want back in on the action too, Golovin, Clijsters. The tour life is a dream, a fantasy, a bubble world of luxury and catering and first class living. The money has never been greater. Kermode did a great job for getting the players the most money. Why did they fire him again?

  • Jon King · September 17, 2019 at 9:37 am

    Scoop, I have a feeling if some investigative reporter looked at elite tennis starting at the junior level and into the pros, it would be mind blowing. I have always said with all the reality TV shows, if there was one on elite tennis juniors, it would be crazy. Parents smacking 9 year olds for losing, the entourage, crazy money being spent, etc.

    Someone said that PEDs may be in pros but not in juniors because there is no money in juniors. But remember, parents spending $60,000/year on academies, some parents have told me their tennis bills are $100,000/year with travel and coaching, etc. Also, the elite juniors are getting sponsors at a young age and starting pro events at 14-15. And ITF juniors starts at 13 and that is a must for elite juniors. So the dream of money and fame is what drives the risks to use PEDs in kids.

    You have very ambitious people with money as tennis parents. They do not lose in life and their kids will not lose in tennis if possible. Its quite an explosive combination and South Florida is the epicenter.

    Junior tennis is where it starts, the competition and money being spent is crazy. The red, orange, green dot ball system was supposed to “let kids play real tennis and develop strokes at a young age”. What it has really done is decrease the age parents go crazy. Now you see 6-7 year olds at orange ball events with entourages and under pressure to win.

    Also Universal Tennis Ratings (UTR) has added even more pressure. 3 years ago parents and kids started knowing their UTR to 2 decimal places. Since UTR is based on games won and opponents rankings, kids feel pressure to win 6-0, 6-0 if at all possible. Matches used to be won by the better player 6-3, 6-2, they would try new shots and know they would still win. Now they must win every possible game so kids cheat a ton more to try to win 6-0 or 6-1. Also, lots more retirements as kids do not want to play vs a kid with a low UTR who may be a good player but just not played enough to increase UTR. Check out all the retirements in some junior tournaments, its crazy.

    If someone who knew how to get information and get people to talk ever investigated elite tennis, starting at age 7-8, it would be an eye opener for sure.

  • Jeff · September 17, 2019 at 9:51 am

    Does anyone else think that maybe PED use should be allowed in athletics? The issue is we are competing against many other sports that are popular and it is known that athletes in such sports like NFL and WWE use steroids. It isn’t hurting the leagues’ popularity and we are in the entertainment business.

    I don’t think it is appropriate for youngsters to take steroids since their bodies are developing but as an adult it seems OK. And we should have the freedom to do what we want to our bodies. It is like smoking a cigarette or drinking too much alcohol. I am sure with the advancements in medicine we can make PED usages safer for all athletes involved. Hopefully in the future we will know more as science advances about finding the proper balance in using these drugs.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 17, 2019 at 9:58 am

    Jon, some colorful stories I’ve been told about juniors – Future Hall of Famer being told by her father if she loses, she has to jog home 20 miles. She lost. She was 14. Future Hall of Famer being called a whore by her father at the tournament. Current top 100 player lost a junior match and her parents would not talk to her for four days. Also been told some crazy crazy stuff about the world’s biggest academy and the stuff that went on there. Mind blowing stuff. But this is the norm for big time sports and kids. We are now getting a glimpse of what big time figure skaters and gymnasts have to go through. Judges can be influenced. Not saying anymore.

  • Jon King · September 17, 2019 at 10:01 am

    That is a great debate Jeff. And I have a feeling that is why so many ‘medical exceptions’ are given. The powers that be do not want to kill the golden goose.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 17, 2019 at 10:04 am

    Good question Jeff. Those drugs are expensive. Allowing PED use favors the wealthier. But what are the long term risks? Should an athlete be allowed to have the freedom to take whatever substances they want regardless of risk? There are some big time tennis players that we know took steroids and PEDs and they are still alive and functioning normally or at least they appear to. No one has gone public about the horror stories or how PEDs wrecked their life. Maybe you are right and PEDs should be legal. Would like to hear what Lance Armstrong has to say about it?

  • Jon King · September 17, 2019 at 10:09 am

    Scoop, yes, that academy is ground zero for some of this. Oh the stories are crazy. Tennis parents can be rabid animals and barely get to the car before going after the kid. Walk through a parking lot of a South Florida tournament and you will hear the yelling from several cars after the matches.

    Judges can be influenced, in tennis it is the junior tournament directors. Amazing how some connected kids get the later start times and easiest possible draws week after week. The college admission scandal has nothing on junior tennis.

    The junior rankings are flawed to no end. So many ways to get kids well ranked above their actual skill level. Once you get outside the top 10 or so, the junior rankings are a joke.

  • catherine · September 17, 2019 at 10:49 am

    Jeff – this argument has been going backwards and forwards for years. If PEDS were allowed of course it would all come down to who’s got the best laboratory and who’s willing to take the bigger risk.

    Medical fact is steroids, for eg, are useful in controlling certain medical conditions but potentially fatal if misused or taken for a long period and then suddenly stopped. Steroids will kill you. But going by a famous question once asked a group of elite athletes (would you take X if it meant you’d win a gold medal but would shorten your life ? YES.) not many people would be deterred by that knowledge.

    Junior tennis sounds like a zoo. Horrific. And how many of those kids ever make it as pro players ? How many are now grown up and regret their wretched childhoods ?

    I still don’t believe any of the great champions of the sport have ever taken PEDs. Nadal is an object lesson here – he sued a couple of years ago and won.

    Fortunately in Britain being good at sport doesn’t help in gaining a university place which is why so many Brits end up in the US.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 17, 2019 at 10:58 am

    Jon; The pressure on the poor kids has to be unbearable. Expecting to win a major and be top ten in the world when a kid is a teenager is like expecting to win the lottery. Can’t expect, just try your best, try to improve and have fun. Junior tennis is a big indu$try. I know a family who quit the job, sold the house and moved to Florida and the father now works three job to try to get his daughters to be pros. There are countless stories like this.

  • Andrew Miller · September 17, 2019 at 11:52 am

    No PED use, please. For all the cash poured into the sport it doesn’t translate into better strategy at all or playing.

    I’m in favor of players with shorter careers whose backs break. I now see we fans are part of the problem in worshipping great players.

    Go help Tommy Paul. He doesn’t use PEDs. And he’s playing well.

  • Jeff · September 17, 2019 at 11:57 am

    Catherine, what you are saying is true but science is advancing and I think we can effectively gauge how much PED usage is acceptable without risking health. I am sort of surprised it has not been done yet.

    It is interesting that in baseball they had a record year of home runs because players are using PEDs and no one complains these days. As long as the games are on TV and the fans can attend and buy tickets, food and parking, that is the important thing.

    If other sports like the NFL and baseball are permitting the usage, it makes no sense for tennis to prohibit it. Certainly the tennis tours should modify their guidelines with the latest scientific advances.

    Like Scoop said, many users live long and prosperous lives. We need to study them. Certainly Lance Armstrong is not on the verge of dying.

  • Andrew Miller · September 17, 2019 at 11:58 am

    Scoop, these are bad stories. Mary Pierce’s dad was correct that he probably could have improved a player if they gave him a cash payment and a ball machine or cart full of balls for a few days.

    I don’t believe in the academies. I saw players that went and returned. They weren’t better and we’re even losing to local players. The money bought them nothing, their games weren’t better. The local player on the other hand also wasn’t better because they did the same thing. They didn’t take risks to improve their game or find a way to do what they did more efficiently.

    There was so much mindlessness that was seen as fantastic playing. What we really had was solid talent with bad coaching. The coaching wasn’t better locally or at the academies. This was a hotbed of tennis in an era where tennis was big at the local level – many people played.

  • catherine · September 17, 2019 at 12:47 pm

    Jeff – drug assisted playing is a sham, and nothing you can say will make me think otherwise. I can’t actually believe you’re serious.

    Yes, modern sport is considered entertainment etc, but so once was ripping people apart in the Colosseum and I don’t think many people would tolerate that nowadays.

    Also – you might bear in mind that the long term use of these drugs may have certain side-effects which would affect women and their future as child-bearers. So that wouldn’t make things very fair would it ?

    And what kind of can of worms would you open if you let just anyone go off and produce some so-called PED ? The mind just boggles. And who says the NFL and baseball permit the use of PEDs – is it written down anywhere ? Which PEDs and what dosage ?

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 17, 2019 at 1:08 pm

    Fans don’t care about NFL or MLB or any sport using drugs, they just pay to see good action and entertainment. I feel the same about tennis, these athletes need help in recovery, so they can play as much as possible. In one sense it’s logical and understandable.

  • Andrew Miller · September 17, 2019 at 1:17 pm

    Drugs are bad for tennis. Same for recreational drugs, glad Noah Rubin is bringing this up. The PEDs should lead to suspensions automatically.

    Seriously if the sport heads this way I’ll do what I did with baseball, just change sports. Checkers maybe.

  • Andrew Miller · September 17, 2019 at 1:19 pm

    MLB baseball lost me as a fan. Before PEDs I went regularly. Afterwards I stopped following. Canseco and McGuireand Barry Bonds stories made me sick to my stomach, and I left. I also heard stories similar to those on the board, of juicing at lower levels. I was sorry to know this and glad to leave the sport alone because it wasn’t worth supporting a sport that didn’t care.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 17, 2019 at 2:10 pm

    Mo Money mo problems. IN sports too. Big contracts mean greed for the next contract. When I used to do NFL Biofiles I remember Bryan Cox, an outspoken but likable linebacker for the Dolphins did a Biofile and called the NFL not NFL but “marketball.” Most players care more about their own brand and marketing themselves than the team. Odell Beckham comes to mind, a player who will do anything to promote himself. Rather watch a doubles match on court 5 than NFL or MLB or NBA.

  • catherine · September 17, 2019 at 2:28 pm

    The future according to Jeff: two players come out to play a W’don final and while they’re warming up an info flash comes on the screen with names, stats etc and then a list of the PEDS they’re taking, with a plug for manufacturers obviously. Maybe even a separate trophy 🙂

  • Jeff · September 17, 2019 at 4:25 pm

    Well I think next year is 2020 and we have to advance with the times like the other sports if we want tennis to prosper. Certainly the players need help with recovery and whatnot. I am with Scoop on this one.

    Anyone following the latest Kyrgios controversy. Rafter called for him to be suspended and Nick crushed him. He has arrived in Geneva for Laver Cup; shockingly the ATP did not suspend him before that event. Who would have guessed?

  • Jeff · September 17, 2019 at 4:26 pm

    Just to be clear I am not advocating rampant usage. Just the supplements that have been tested and approved by the tennis tours. Like Jon King said, there are many medical exceptions given anyway. May as well open it up.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 17, 2019 at 4:40 pm

    Yes, the list of players using “therapeutic use exemptions” to use PEDs should be made public. The Russian hackers Dancing Bears are the only reason we know about the TUE option/loophole.

  • Andrew Miller · September 17, 2019 at 7:02 pm

    Rafter, Hall of Fame; Kyrgios, Hall of Shame. Too bad Kyrgios doesn’t care about the game.

  • Andrew Miller · September 17, 2019 at 7:04 pm

    Juicing in tennis: once legitimized, I’m going all in on I truly hope the sport stays clean.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 17, 2019 at 8:28 pm

    Marcelo Rios: “If (big star 1, big star 2) ever test positive you guys in the media will never know about it because they’re too important for the economics of the sport.” Jonas Bjorkman: “I have heard of the ITF covering up positive tests.” (Sports Illustrated 1998)

  • Andrew Miller · September 18, 2019 at 12:02 am

    PEDs might be on tour. There are too many superhuman displays of tennis. Rallies are way too long, too long compared against historical averages and players aren’t any better (yes, Sampras would do fine in 2019 with a Federer size racquet).

  • Jon King · September 18, 2019 at 12:16 am

    Yes Scoop, the pressure is off the charts on these kids. If you observe the tournament check in desk at a South Florida tournament, even a low level 7, the kids look like they are waiting to get cavities filled at the dentist rather than playing a game.

    One tennis parent from Bosnia told me years ago that he was in the war before coming to the US, and he said that the feelings he has watching his daughter play tennis were just as intense as fighting in a war zone. He told me multiple times, “its like watching your child fighting in a life or death battle”. And when he says that, the other tennis parents listening say they feel the same way. Thats the intensity of the junior tennis scene down here.

  • catherine · September 18, 2019 at 12:48 am

    Oh well – why don’t we just call it all-in wrestling and be done with it. I’m with Andrew – once it’s a drug fest I’m off. Chemical games just aren’t interesting. By the way, players are much stronger than they used to be and racquets enable much longer and powerful hitting – that’s a fact.

    ‘supplements that have been tested and approved’ -in that case they’re not illegal so we wouldn’t be bothering. And what supplements would they be ?

    Oh and by the way – Kerber won a match. She beat Gibbs in SS.

  • catherine · September 18, 2019 at 12:59 am

    Meets Keys next so exit Angie most likely. Maddie will slug her off the court. Still, that was Angie’s first win since W’don.

    Vondrousova is out for the year with wrist op.

  • catherine · September 18, 2019 at 4:19 am

    Angie looked much better in the highlights I saw, not so sluggish. She has been studying Bianca’s forehand 🙂

    (I saw a quote from Bianca’s coach saying she spent a lot of time when she was younger studying film of ATP players, Nadal etc and didn’t bother so much with women. Good tactic.)

  • Hartt · September 18, 2019 at 6:29 am

    When coach Bruneau was traveling with Bianca, I think they were in Japan, they watched the men play and Bianca does indeed take inspiration from the men’s game, for example hitting with a lot of topspin, instead of flat like so many WTA players do.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 18, 2019 at 8:28 am

    Jon, tennis is a fist fight without the fists, as Tracy Austin once said in the 90s but she doesn’t say it anymore. But it’s not just one fight, it’s just the beginning of hundreds or thousands of fights on the journey to be a top 50 pro. and they say focus on one point at a time or one shot at a time.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 18, 2019 at 8:30 am

    Catherine, you say the players are much stronger today but you might be wrong. I was just told this week by Gilad Bloom, a former top 61 player in the ATP that Vilas and Borg trained together at Borg’s island before a major and one day the two played 19 sets together, in one day. I don’t believe any of today’s pros are strong enough to do that.

  • catherine · September 18, 2019 at 8:38 am

    Scoop – if the players weren’t hitting as hard then they weren’t expending so much energy. And there is no way that playing with wooden racquets produced the force that the racquets of 2019 do. Just impossible. And the majority of players are stronger. They train harder. Not many top players of the 70s and early 80s trained as hard as they do today.

    And how long were the sets ?

  • catherine · September 18, 2019 at 8:40 am

    Interesting changes to the program next year. Germany wins for women, UK loses.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 18, 2019 at 8:52 am

    Catherine, the racquet tech and strings help a lot with the power, several old timers disagree the players are in better shape today. Did the players whine about the season being too long back in the 70s?

  • Andrew Miller · September 18, 2019 at 9:02 am

    3 WTA tournaments this week. That’s a lot. I can hear the WTA cash register from here. Not sure if these events are making the big bucks or if players are grabbing the cash while getting ready to complain how long the season is.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 18, 2019 at 9:04 am

    Pro tennis should make a law of any player complains publicly about the length of the season, automatic $100,000 fine to be donated to the lower outside top 150 ranked player’s fund.

  • Andrew Miller · September 18, 2019 at 9:09 am

    Today vs past, for what it’s worth tennis in 1980 seems like it was more exciting than tennis in 1970. If that’s because of racquet technology that’s great.

    The tournament finals now are way, way too long. I saw some Roddick Sampras 2002 US Open last night, and points were a lot shorter – not because of the aces. Both players didn’t play around with the ball.

    Nadal reminds me of Sampras but Nadal has more of the punisher in him, making the opponent feel pain before putting the ball away. Sampras was more every ball could be the last, rather than making an opponent fall over. He didn’t like to play with people before putting them away, putting them away worked just fine.

  • Andrew Miller · September 18, 2019 at 9:21 am

    The season is too long! Please don’t give me that huge appearance fee!!!

    Maybe players want the season shortened to do more charitable exhibitions (for themselves and their agents). More money!

    When Noah Rubin says he’s playing for PBJ I believe it. When other players complain about no off season, I don’t believe it.

    If tennis were more grown up they’d end the season in October, and maybe give challengers a few more weeks. So there would be 2.5 months to schedule as many expos as possible.

  • Andrew Miller · September 18, 2019 at 9:25 am

    Players aren’t better today than fifteen years ago.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 18, 2019 at 10:10 am

    Does the ATP and WTA put a gun to players heads and force them to play after US Open? No. Easy to fake an injury and say I need the rest of the season off.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 18, 2019 at 10:14 am

    Andrew, in the 1970s my tennis club in Wayne NJ had over 700 members, today we have around 100. Also, within miles of my club there were TWO indoor tennis clubs within five miles. Both operating at the same time, within about two miles of each other. That’s how popular tennis was in the 70s. I watched Sampras vs COrretja World Tour F semifinal 1998 last night, the last game and tiebreaker. Sampras could not hit a backhand offensive shot, only a defensive neutral ball. The no. 1 player in the world was basically pushing his backhand in the crunch time of the match, Corretja was bullying him around with his inside out forehand, beating up the Pete backhand. Corretja won 36 63 76 and lost in the final to Moya.

  • catherine · September 18, 2019 at 10:18 am

    Birmingham, as the article in the link says, has lost its women’s event because the tournament couldn’t make money.
    And B’ham is a long established event.

    I don’t know what the WTA is up to in China – all these tournaments and I’d guess none of them are making a cent. Diluted draws, no shows. ridiculous. What’s the Players’ Council doing ?

    Andrew – depends what you mean by ‘better’. It was certainly different. And the players are fitter today, no question, I can remember. One or two smoked, which tells you something. And there were no vast entourages of physios, hitting partners etc. I was thinking of longer ago than 15 years anyway because Scoop mentioned Borg and Vilas and that’s back in the 70s.

    There are lots of injuries now because of overplaying, no doubt about that.

    In my view the season proper ends with the USO. The rest is just for the money. And maybe international competition, whatever that is now.

    But spot a free week and someone will come along to fill it. (also, long ago, the Aust circuit began before Christmas I believe)

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 18, 2019 at 10:25 am

    Some players smoke today Catherine, Ferrer was one. Some vape too. I saw one in Delray but forgot who it was. Borg and Vilas played 19 sets in one day for training. No one today can do that, not even Sock or Kyrgios. I tend to believe the players overall are fitter today but am open to the protests of the earlier gens who assert the opposite is true. 19 sets in one day. Let that sink in.

  • catherine · September 18, 2019 at 11:12 am

    I think it’s a bit of a non-argument. Things were so different decades ago – the styles were different, equipment was different, surfaces were different players didn’t play so much,etc. Let’s just say great players were great in their time.

    19 sets has sunk in Scoop, but how long were the sets ? Did they have tiebreaks ? I can’t see any reason for players of earlier generations to be fitter than they are today. Have a look at some old films. Matches were shorter, on the whole. Women’s tennis has changed out of recognition.

    Some old film I’ve watched on cricket (not your sport I know) show men in the field ambling around overweight and slow and waiting for catches to come to them because they were too unfit (or full of beer) to dive for the ball. And that was international standard. The great performers really stood out.

    About your tennis club – the tennis boom balloon really popped in the 70s, particularly in the States. The editor of Tennis mag told me he thought the reason was that many people who took it up as a fashion discovered how hard the games was and dropped out.

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